Sunday January 20, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- No wallets or purses had to be opened for these services. Hinsdale resident Bill Eulian was grateful to have nine dull kitchen knives sharpened and Pittsfield resident Heather Fletcher had tears on a sweater belt loop and a left purple mitten stitched back into perfect shape at an event hosted by the Pittsfield Resilience Circle.

From 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, the public was openly welcomed to a "Repair Cafe" at St. Stephen’s Church to have clothing sewed, computers diagnosed and repaired, electronic supplies fixed, and furniture reupholstered -- all for free.

On Saturday’s annual National Day of Service, an initiative of President Barack Obama to promote volunteerism, the Pittsfield Resilience Circle organized volunteers to provide free services to the community.

Group founder Janet Henderson was quick to point out that the volunteerism she organized wasn’t in coordination with the National Service Day, but rather was an essential part of the group’s evolving mission.

The Pittsfield group, formed last summer, promotes "personal security" with a catch -- there’s fee required to receive help. The focus is on bringing people together to build relationships, solve problems, and promotea better world where money doesn’t stand in the way of relationships or services.

Within two hours, Henderson said that about 30 members of the public shown up. She said that the Resilience Club would consider holding monthly Repair Cafe sessions, though no decision had been made about any future sessions.

Henderson said that she started the group because people need to step up and solve problems rather than waiting for answers.

"We’ve become such a passive society, always expecting someone else to take care of our problems like the government or an agency," Henderson said. "We need to do more ourselves."

With a free afternoon, Pittsfield resident Fletcher brought out a left purple mitten with a slight tear around the thumb and a torn sweater, and volunteer Gail Ryan stitched it for free.

Fletcher also brought a sofa cushion with a broken zipper.

Patrons could donate funds to cover the group’s overhead expenses to run the session, but it wasn’t required.

"I’ve been wearing [the mitten] anyways, but it’s just a nuisance and the hole in the thumb keeps getting worse," Fletcher said of her glove.

Volunteer Ryan was approached by a friend asking if she would be willing to share some acting knowledge, but instead Ryan offered to stitch clothes.

"I am doing something so little and helping someone," Ryan said happily.

Pittsfield resident Gordon Dunham brought upholstery equipment from his private business. He removed a broken zipper from Fletcher’s sofa cushion and then stitched on a new zipper.

Jim Toner, who works at Silvian Technology Services, offered to fix computers for free.

People dropped off their laptops and printers, and also asked him questions he was happy to answer. He normally charges clients by the hour, but not Saturday.

"This is one day in my life and there are a lot of people who can’t afford these services," said Toner, who wasn’t able to fix all the computers, but was able to offer suggestions.

Anyone seeking additional information, or interested in participating, in the Resilience Circle can e-mail Janet Henderson at jmh227@hotmail.com.

To contact John Sakata:
jsakata@berkshireeagle.com
or 413-496-6240.
On Twitter: jsakata